Amazon launched a TV set-box on Wednesday that lets users watch streaming video on their high-def TVs. The ecommerce company introduced the $99 Amazon Fire TV with advanced features that leapfrog similar devices such as Roku and Google’s Chromecast – including a voice-enabled remote control and an optional game controller for $39.99, putting it more on par with Apple TV.
Like its Kindle Fire tablet, the Fire TV set-box is not about Amazon flexing its muscles in hardware, but about delivering digital content – and ultimately bringing people another way to shop online. As advances are made, Amazon will be poised to bring ecommerce directly to television and the television set, bypassing the mobile devices people currently use to shop while lounging on their living room couches.
As importantly, Amazon will have more data about consumer behavior and media consumption, which it has so far exceled at mining in order to improve the shopping experience and, of course, sell more widgets and e-widgets.
As for the device itself, according to DigitalTrends.com, Amazon aims to tackle three main problems it sees in competitors: performance, search and closed ecosystems.
Amazon referred to its device as offering a “huge, open ecosystem of entertainment,” explaining it could be used to choose from over 200,000 movies and TV episodes. The Fire TV plugs into HDTVs for access to Netflix, Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, SHOWTIME and more.
It can also access games from EA, Disney, Gameloft, Mojang, 2K, Amazon Game Studios. The average price of paid games on Fire TV is $1.85. Users can also use the Fire TV to access photos, music, and games, offering seamless integration with Amazon’s Cloud Drive and providing access to Amazon MP3, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn.
What may be a big selling point for consumers: the Fire TV device will find the lowest priced content, even if it’s not from Amazon. “Just like on Amazon.com, Fire TV integrates viewing options on a single page so you can always choose the lowest price. This is available starting with Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Prime Instant Video, and will expand to other content providers so you’ll see all of your options in one place.”
Fire TV runs the latest version of Fire OS “Mojito,” which is based on Android, “so,” Amazon said, “it’s simple for developers to port their services and games over to Fire TV.”
More information is available on the Amazon website.